Monthly Archives: January 2010

Aging Wines- Dom and the Somm, A Wine Podcast With Terence Hughes of Domenico Selections

It has been a very long time coming but here is a podcast that I did late last year with Terence Hughes of Domenico Selections on aging wines Dom and the som Sorry Terry that it has taken me so long to edit this.

This project is a work in progress. The next podcasts will be more visually appealing and hopefully a tad shorter but here’s our latest edition. Aging wines is a very interesting and exhaustive topic. We have attempted to give our impressions and some ideas about what to consider when aging a wine.

On another note, I am giving a class on wine writing tomorrow at Mediabistro if anyone is thinking about what to do on a beautiful Saturday afternoon but one that will be too cold to stay outdoors, come on down…..

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Raise A Glass To Authors & Historians, Tasting With the Big Guns

I have been accused of being somewhat morbid I’ll admit. It’s the newshound in me that constantly searches for information and reads everything. I read the obituaries all the time. Today’s news brought with it sad tidings of the loss of three men of letters and much more. Howard Zinn, a much loved activist and historian who I wrote about last year has died as has J.D. Salinger, author of everyone’s favorite book, Catcher in the Rye. Another real New York chronicler, Louis Auchincloss also passed away today. While not members of my family certainly, all were people in my adult consciousness who bettered our society and will be missed. A toast is in order to celebrate the lives of great men.

On a cheerier note, I was privileged to participate in a tasting yesterday with several Master of Wine students (I am not an MW student) led my Stephen Skelton, an MW who graciously hosted the tasting. Once again, I was impressed with the depth of knowledge and dedication that people exhibited. The MW program is certainly a quantum leap beyond the Diploma program I completed in July 2008. I had been told that by numerous people but yesterday’s tasting was a real confirmation. It also confirmed to me how fascinating the world of wine is, once again, and how much more there is to learn and explore. I was excited to see that none of my initial fascination has worn off despite these 13 years of study.

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Is Wine By The Glass The Best Option? Not Always Clear What Is In The Glass

I often order wines by the glass when I go out. Why? Certainly you pay more than you should for a wine by the glass, likely the entire cost of the bottle to the restaurant or even more than the cost of the bottle. That said sometimes I want just a glass of something or I want to try a different wine than the person/people I am with, and sometimes I think the price by the bottle is outrageous.

Unfortunately what I have noticed with greater frequency is that even at established restaurants, wine bars and music venues in New York City, bartenders think that if you order wine by the glass you don’t care what you drink. Over the weekend, I went to a music venue which purports to be much more than that and was served a wine by the glass that I didn’t order.

The bartender probably figured that I wouldn’t notice the difference. When I mentioned it to the waitress, she graciously apologized and comped me a glass of wine which she poured at my table. However, I am sure she didn’t complain to the bar.

Why I am writing about this? I know first hand that this practice happens all over the city, maybe all over every city, and I can understand why as well. That’s not the point though is it. This is much like the brunello scandal on a small scale. Many people knew that Brunello was made with grapes other than Sangiovese but ignored the practice because it was common knowledge. The American customer however who was paying a fortune for Brunello complained loudly that they wanted only Sangiovese in the glass. We know what happened there but the point is something else. If you pay for one thing, people shouldn’t switch what is in the glass thinking that you won’t notice.

As a wine writer, blogger and publicist, I also think this is terrible for brands and that producers should speak up. Say I order a wine by the glass from a producer and the bartender switches the wine because he/she needs to finish something they already have open. If I hate the wine and then write about it, that damages the image of the wine in the eyes of the consumer. Even if I don’t write about wine but just consume it, if you give me a wine I didn’t order and perhaps don’t like, then you’ve just cost the wine producer a client.

This long rant is essentially just a call to have restaurateurs and their bartenders be more aware that the customer needs to be served what they have ordered. These practices only go on with the knowledge of the owners so it is up and down the line that this needs to be addressed. I will not go back to that music venue again and if I do, I will inform the sommelier, also someone I know, what the is going on there, assuming that they are unaware of what happens when they aren’t present. This is totally unacceptable and should be called out in my view.

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Haiti, Wordsworth, Donate What You Can

This is a wine blog but I don’t feel like writing about wine today but rather urging people to donate whatever little or a lot of money that they can to the disaster relief in Haiti. I bear watching the news about what is happening and that feeling of impotence in the face of a disaster of such proportions.

My ever loving dad mentioned this poem to me by Wordsworth and I thought I would post it. The last stanza reflects that while Toussaint will likely die in prison, his legacy will live on and people won’t forget him or the country he created. Let’s heed that call and not forget Haiti.

To Toussaint L’Ouverture

By William Wordsworth

(1770–1850)

Toussaint, the most unhappy man of men

Whether the whistling Rustic tend his plough

Within thy hearing, or thy head be now

Pillowed in some deep dungeon’s earless den;

O Miserable Chieftain! Where and when

Wilt thou find Patience? Yet die not; do thou

Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow:

Though fallen thyself, never to rise again,

Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind

Powers that will work for thee; air, earth, and skies;

There’s not a breathing of the common wind

That will forget thee; thou hast great allies;

Thy friends are exultations, agonies,

And love, and man’s unconquerable mind.

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South African Wines – An Area To Watch

South Africa has been on my mind a lot over the course of the past few months. At the Society of Wine Educator’s conference this summer, Wines of South Africa did a big promotion for the organization and I was impressed with the wines and the materials. I remember very clearly the day that Nelson Mandela was freed and I was excited to think of how much the country had changed. I wrote this article for The Gourmet Retailer which was just published yesterday.

South Africa has gone through numerous changes in the past 20 years. Nelson Mandela was freed 19 years ago; peaceful democratic elections were held in 1994 and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission went a long way toward healing wounds post-apartheid; and South Africa has become a vibrant democracy with a lively tourist industry.

South Africa has been courting tourists for many years, primarily pushing its host of flora and fauna as the prime attraction. Things have changed, though, and South African food and wine have become a real draw. 2010 is expected to see even more change as South Africa hosts the first World Cup Soccer tournament in Africa.

Winemaking is not new to South Africa. The country has been producing wines since 1659. The year 2009 represented the 350th anniversary of the country’s winemaking tradition.

To read the rest of this article, please go to Gourmet Retailer’s website.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Barbera- A New Friend

I used to be a Barbera snob. I wouldn’t drink it. I thought it was too acidic without being serious. Many people I know in Italy still feel this way about Barbera. Luckily I realized the error of my ways a few years ago and am now a very happy drinker of this Piedmontese wine.

Barbera, long a grape that has been overlooked or at least underrated, is making real headway in the United States marketplace this year. The reasons are multifaceted. Key to this renewed focus on Barbera is the continuing global recession. Barbera on the whole is more economical than wines made with Nebbiolo such as Barolo, Barbaresco and Gattinara. Additionally, better quality Barbera is now widely available and there are more styles to choose from too. Add to this the fact that Barbera with its high acidity makes it a great food wine and you have a winning combination.

Barbera is also capable of much greater yields than Nebbiolo and has softer tannins than Nebbiolo and thus can be consumed earlier although really good Barbera can also be longlived.

Barbera grows in a number of regions in Italy including Piedmont, Lombardy, and Emilia Romagna. It is also planted in some of the southern regions but to a lesser degree. The grape’s popularity is such that it is also grown in California, in Argentina and in Australia where it was brought years ago by Italian immigrants.

Barbera is Italy’s second most cultivated grape (after Sangiovese). Barbera flourishs when the climate is warm but not too hot and in chalky, clay soils which abound in Italy. Documents mention the Barbera grape as far back as 1246 and 1277. These documents were found in Casale Monferrato in Piedmont.

To read the rest of this article, please go to Alta Cucina.

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New Year’s Resolutions & Lots of Great Wine

I love making New Year’s resolutions. Some I stick to and some I don’t but I always like the clean slate feeling that it gives me to start the year with goals and objectives. I always have too many but still I prefer to err on the too muchness side of life. Some of what I hope to accomplish this year has to do with wine, of course and some does not.

I also have a wish list of what I would like to see on the U.S. market in terms of wines and therefore read with interest Jancis Robinson’s wish list in the Financial Times of what she would like to see this year. I agree with much that she noted especially with her hope that wine producers use lighter bottles.

I drank a fabulous bottle of Primitivo di Manduria for Christmas with Roast beef, a great combination, but the bottle weighed about 5 pounds. It was a gift from a friend so I am not sure of the cost but I can only imagine that the price of the bottle was eventually passed on to the consumer. In addition to price issues, the carbon footprint of such a wine is quite problematic.

Dr. Vino did a very well done piece on the carbon footprint of wine a while back I recall. Lastly, transporting that wine was not as easy as it would have been if the bottle were a bit lighter.

My second wish is that wine producers maintain the recent tendency to bring down the alcohol content in their wines. I certainly understand that producers in warmer climes have trouble doing this unless they pick early and then are perhaps sacrificing phenolic ripeness for acidity and lower alcohol. I prefer this style of wine but many people do not. I also think that is because they aren’t exposed to these wines. Wines with 14% or 15% alcohol are extremely difficult to pair with foods without overwhelming them and are not easy to drink as an apertif either.

Over the long weekend I had the good fortune to drink some wines from Alsace thanks to my friends Eileen LeMonda and Rodolphe Boulanger. The wines were 12.5% alcohol and were perfect with food. Thank you!!! I can’t wait to buy a case of the Marcel Deiss Premier Cru de Bergheim Gruenspiel Vin de Terroir 2000 and of the Domaine Herring Pinot Blanc 2006

My third wish is that more Italian dessert wines are available on the U.S. market. I drank a great one at my friend Danica’s house this past week made with the indigenous grape Nasco and a hint of Malvasia. The wine was from Sardinian producer Argiolas. I love that family and all of their wines. This was the Angialis IGT Isola dei Nuraghi 2004.

My fourth wish is to drink lots of sparkling wine from countries near and dear to my heart as well as bubbly from farther a field. At Danica’s I tried my first sparkling wine made from Lugana, another indigenous variety from Italy which is traditionally from the Veneto. This wine was made using the traditional method of secondary fermentation in the bottle, not in the tank and was very interesting. Most of the sparkling wines made using indigenous varieties are made using the charmat method where secondary fermentation takes place in the tank.

My fifth wish is that the price of wines in restaurants would come down a bit and that they would serve smaller pours. An 8 ounce glass of wine is absurd both in terms of its price but also for the customer. A 4 to 6 ounce pour is sufficient and leads to better appreciation of the wine because it has room to “breathe” in the glass.

Lastly, I wish that everyone has a very happy new year and new decade with lots of good wine, much family and friends around to share it with and, of course, world peace.

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